First of all, my condolences to the tornado victims in Nashville, and congratulations to the Vanderbilt basketball team for staying focused, playing an awesome game, and getting a great win for their city. You all know I've never been too fond of the Vandy basketball program, but I think we can all relate to what they are going through.
The loss drops Alabama to 16-14 (8-9) and ends all hope for an NCAA at-large tournament bid. We are now more realistically on the NIT bubble.
We came out flat and Vandy set the tone, scoring on their first two possessions. Beetle got hot in the first half, and we answered to take a 6 point lead about midway through the first. It was an up-tempo game, and we did a fairly good job of protecting the basketball, but the defense was atrocious throughout, and Vanderbilt shot the lights out. We went nearly 6 minutes without scoring from the field, and Vandy reclaimed the lead at 42-35 going into halftime.
We trailed by as many as 10 in the second half before Shack finally started scoring to get us back in the game. We were never able to go up by more than a single possession, and another nearly 5 minute drought from the field combined with more terrible defense allowed Vandy to put the game away in the final 3 minutes.
The scoring droughts on offense are going to happen from time to time, especially when you rely on the 3 so much. It seems with our lack of depth and pace of play, we lost our legs late in the game and thus the 3s stopped falling. At some point we have to make some defensive adjustments. I know Petty being out presents some major matchup problems for us, but Herb should have been matched up with Lee much more than he was. Kira and Shack could not guard him. When we finally did put Herb on Lee, they ran a simple high ball screen with their 5, and we inexplicably switched on it every time. I get that he wasn't that great of a 3 point shooter coming into the game and maybe they were more concerned with the dribble drive, but after he's made 3 or 4 in a row, you need to defend him, and neither G nor JD are capable of doing so at the perimeter. The third or fourth time in a row that happened was with about one minute remaining and pushed their lead from 4 back to 7 and essentially put the game away. I admit, I may have had a little bit of a meltdown at that point, so if you were sitting within earshot (which is to say within about a 5 block radius of the arena) I apologize for the profanity.
Coach Oats was as angry as I've seen him all year. During one timeout in the first half he slapped the seat of a chair, and while I couldn't make out what he was saying, we could clearly hear his voice over the music in the PA system. He was mic'd up, and apparently the broadcast picked up him saying "soft as $h!t, that's what it is, you don't care about anybody but yourself." Based on the positioning, I think that was directed at Alex.
Outside of Kira, Beetle, and Herb, we did not get the best effort from everybody while Vanderbilt played inspired basketball. Alex is scheduled to have surgery on his hip after the surgery and I think the injury is bothering him more, as he has been noticeably slower over the last couple of weeks. I was really disappointed in JD being a non-factor against much less competition after putting up a double-double in the last game.
On the positive side, Kira had 30 points, 8 assists, and only one turnover. Beetle had 24 points on his senior night but had 5 turnovers. Shack bounced back from a bad first half to end with 18 points. Alex and Herb both had 8 rebounds.
The crowd was disappointing considering it was an ideal tip-off time with a lot on the line. I would guess there was no more than 6,000 there and they were mostly taken out of the game for much of the night.
If either Ole Miss beats Mizzou or LSU beats Arkansas tonight, we will avoid having to play on Wednesday of the SEC tournament. If that's the case, I would rest Herb, Alex, and JP against Mizzou and focus on getting everyone rested and healthy for Nashville. Assuming either Ole Miss or LSU wins tonight, it's probably in our best interest to lose Saturday and get the 10 seed in the SEC tournament. An 8 or 9 seed will put us on the Kentucky side of the bracket.
Up next, we wrap up the regular season at Mizzou, game time is 1:30 pm Saturday on the SEC Network.